Credible reports gathered from the Joint Conference Committee on the 2014 Special Senatorial Elections of the National Legislature say Tuesday, December 23, 2014 has been set as the new date for the Special Senatorial Elections.
The Conference Committee, comprised of members of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives, was established by both Houses to resolve any amendment and disagreement relating to a bill or letter from the Executive and respond with consensus.
Accordingly, reports from the Legislature’s Joint Conference Committee on the 2014 Special Senatorial Elections are expected to be included in today’s discussion in the Liberian Senate and House of Representatives.
But when contacted yesterday afternoon, NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya told the Daily Observer he had no knowledge of this latest legislative intension to defer the elections to a date later than December 16 that he had earlier proposed.
The Committee’s decision stemmed from a mandate from both Plenaries on the proposed date communicated to the Legislature by the National Elections Commission (NEC), setting Tuesday, December 16, 2014 as the new date for the Special Senatorial Elections. The NEC boss informed Speaker Alex Tyler of the House of Representatives and Senator Gbehzohgar Findley, President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, that the new date was overwhelmingly accepted during consultations organized by NEC in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations (UNEAD).
Cllr. Korkoyah noted that the proposal of the new date is in compliance with the Joint Resolution adopted by the National Legislature and approved by President Sirleaf, in which NEC was mandated to conduct Special Senatorial Elections not later than December 20, 2014, and to hold consultations with relevant stakeholders to set a new date.
In his letter, Cllr. Korkoyah indicated that NEC had concluded consultations and named those institutions and individuals with whom he consulted, including all registered political parties and independent candidates, civil society organizations, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, including the National Muslim Council and the Liberia Council of Churches. Others are the National Traditional Council, the Press Union of Liberia, the Federation of Liberian Youth and Liberia National Students Union, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The NEC boss also held consultations with representatives from the African Union, ECOWAS, the European Union, UNDP and UNMIL as well as United States' Ambassador to Liberia and a cross-section of traditional leaders in the 15 counties.
"I am further pleased to inform you, and through you the Honorable House of Representatives, that an overwhelming majority of those consulted proposed, and the Commission has concurred, that the Special Senatorial Election be conducted on December 16," the NEC boss wrote.
However, he stressed that in the case of an upsurge of the Ebola virus in a particular county at the time of the election, the election in such affected county should be deferred and treated as by-election under Article 37 of the Constitution of Liberia.
Cllr. Korkoya, in his communication, said the outbreak of the virus in West Africa had probably inflated prices, and appealed for more funds to conduct a "transparent, fair and peaceful election." He further said, "It is worth noting that the Ebola factor has triggered additional costs for the conduct of the election which was not originally anticipated. The Commission wishes to notify you that the said additional costs will be submitted for your timely approval," the NEC boss stated.